TALES FROM OUTSIDE THE UNDERBRUSH
“Tales From Outside The Underbrush” is meant to succeed the monthly series of predecessor essays that were in effect, largely if not exclusively set inside “The Underbrush” of geological exploration and forestry, to a universe outside that specialized environment. This “outside world” is one where life is also lived and experienced, and though most often reflecting a different level of circumstance, is not necessarily suggestive of a higher level of civilized behaviour and experience nor a more intelligent reaction to such by the author; just different and outside the conventional underbrush. Hyperbole will continue to be employed for emphasis or effect, or just to avoid the boredom of straight fact or opinion. Reader reaction and comment is invited and welcomed if delivered in a civilized fashion.
This month’s entry continues the tale.
MOTEL 4- Part 1
“If one really loves nature, one can find beauty everywhere.”
Vincent van Gogh
“Nature cannot be tricked or cheated. She will give up to you the object of your struggles only after you have paid her price.”
“Nature is harmony in discord.”
“When a person is accustomed to one hundred and thirty-eight in the shade, his ideas about cold weather are not valuable.”
It all started when the red light came on. It was a warning light on the dashboard of Mary’s car but with no icon of guidance as to what might be the problem. Since our destination was a golf course only seven minutes from home, and we were half way there, we decided to keep going and check on the problem upon our arrival.
The home referred to was not that of our Vancouver residence but one which had become a growing part of our life in the four years since we found it. It had started in 2010 when Vancouver held the Winter Olympics. While overtly the plan was to avoid the hassle that the Olympics would bring to transportation, and in particular the four automobile security check points that Mary would have go through every weekday on her return trip from home to her teaching job, the executed plan may have also reflected the subliminal desire to escape, at least in part, the dreary, rainy, largely sunless existence that city life in Vancouver invariably offers during the winter months that straddle the end of one year and the beginning of another. We therefore decided to avoid both problems by doing what many seniors do in the winter, and that is to flee south to a warmer and much less humid winter climate in the southern USA. A month’s holiday was planned to roughly coincide with the date that the Olympics were to be held. Living on the west coast of Canada made journeying to Florida or other parts of the southeast USA a somewhat irrational, not to speak of expensive strategy. It made more sense to go directly south to California or Arizona. During my days as a mining investment analyst, and reflective of the fact that Arizona at one time possessed some of the world’s major base metal mines, I had made numerous trips to that state in the exercise of my research duties. Furthermore, it was cheaper to live in Arizona than California and since neither of us can be described as “beach people”, being away from the ocean was not a problem. Even furthermore, for two people who were taking on some of the aches and pains of advancing age, and in my case some structural problems with my back, the dry, desert environment of Arizona had its unique appeals.
We decided that the somewhat traditional winter refuge for Canadians in Phoenix and nearby communities like Scottsdale was not that appealing and instead opted to reside in the Tucson area of the Sonoran desert in the south of Arizona and only an hour’s drive or so to the Mexican border. Again, having visited Tucson on numerous business occasions I was familiar with the particular beauty that the area offered; lots of desert but with numerous mountains to break up the desert terrain.
One of the many benefits of the computer age we live in is the data base of information that is available to the average person willing to learn how to access and properly use that information. Having decided that a month’s stay in a hotel did not offer much appeal, not to mention the expense, I went online to research the availability of renting an apartment for a month. A number of options fit our budget, one of which was near a military air base which, given my enthusiasm for aviation, and my status as a licensed pilot, at first excited me but fortunately common sense and prudence with regard to Mary’s reaction about living next to an air base overturned any inclination I might have to pursue that rental availability. Instead, based on some pictures, a description of the property and the necessity to make a choice, we chose to rent the bottom part of a house on a four acre property just outside the city limits of Tucson. Making a literally blind choice of a place to live, however temporarily, from nearly 2,000 miles distance from the destination has its risks, and the surprises one may face when experiencing the reality have an equal chance of being pleasant or the opposite. Fortunately for us, the choice we made turned out to be outstanding in just about every way imaginable.
In the meantime the red light on the dashboard still was on as we cruised into the golf club’s parking lot. Finding a parking slot I thought to make a quick check under the hood before we put on our golf shoes, hefted our golf bags onto a power cart and proceeded to the clubhouse to check in, pay our green fees and get in a little putting practice before our tee off time came up. After raising the hood of the car, but before I had a chance to look at the car’s engine, a friendly voice behind me called out.
“Having some battery trouble are we?”
Turning around, I was met by a young fellow of about twenty years of age who I recognized as one of the club house staff. It was the same young fellow who some weeks earlier had demonstrated the friendly marketing know-how that has historically defined much of American business practice. During the year previous to our present stay in Tucson, the course at which we intended to play this particular day had fallen into a state of extreme disrepair. For most people, one’s participation in recreational golf is largely related to disposable income, and therefore is tied to broad economic trends and conditions. As such, a downturn in the latter can directly impact the game of golf and the real estate on which the game is played. A diminishing number of players can place considerable financial pressure on golf course owners’ ability to maintain their courses in good playing condition. Watering greens in a desert environment of limited water resources can be expensive as can their necessary periodic seeding. Likewise, maintaining sand traps and fairways to prevent them hardening like concrete can all cost considerable money. Such had been the problem at this course, where although being only a seven minute drive from home, its conditions had become such that, like many other people, Mary and I had decided that unless these conditions were to dramatically change, we would not be returning to play. A change in ownership in the intervening year together with associated e-mail notifications of major course repair work by the new owner had, upon our return, encouraged us to at least check out these declarations of improvement to see how valid they might be. The intention was to incur some frank dialogue with the club house staff without the expense and risk of actually playing a round on this “new” course, in case it was not so new after all. After explaining our interest in knowing the true extent of the course improvements that had allegedly taken place under the club’s new ownership during our absence, the young man on duty had reached behind him and proffered a key. “Here, take this key, grab a power cart and go see for yourselves” he had proclaimed, not knowing who we were and demanding no deposit or money for the privilege of conducting this tour. So, tour we did and the advertised improvements had actually occurred, and to the degree that the course was hardly recognizable as a consequence of the repairs that had been carried out. Good ‘ol American marketing know-how!
But back to the present. The young staffer we had some weeks ago encountered in the club house was the same individual who now ventured an explanation for a problem seemingly defined by a raised engine hood.
“I don’t think it’s a battery problem” I replied, “but a warning light has come on and I wanted to check what might be the reason.”
By this time the young man had reached the open hood of the car and after a quick glance, and before I even had the chance to take a look at the engine myself, he said “I know what your problem is.” As I turned to him with polite but inquiring skepticism he continued.
“Pack rats” he exclaimed!
“What?” I replied in ignorant confusion.
“Pack rats. You’ve had pack rats nesting on your engine and who have probably chewed through the insulation of some wires somewhere in or around the engine compartment. Exposing those wires would cause the red warning light to come on I suspect.” Peering under the hood, I was presented with a nest of desert refuse comprised of twigs, grass and pieces of cactus, all nestled on top of the four cylinder engine.
To be continued
Copyright © 2015 Ian de W. Semple. All rights reserved.